There was something truly poignant about that Mahatma Gandhi sale yesterday in New York.
His glasses, a pair of old sandals, his watch and a brass bowl and plate were sold at auction for an extraordinary £1,27 million ($1.8million).
Gandhi, let’s remember, tried to live a modest life not tied down by material possessions. He was also the inventor of that impressively brave form of protest, non-violent resistance who, like so many idealists, died by assassination.
Now, in these cynical days, it is quite possible that someone will come along and say that Gandhi wasn’t as perfect in his idealism as we might think but he was, if nothing else, a powerful visual symbol of his own teachings.
The little man who mixed with expensively suited politicians in his loin cloth and sandals is an image we will all remember.
We will remember and shift slightly awkwardly in our own modest or not so modest trappings of modern fashion.
The money, that £1.27 million ($1.8million) will change hands between two extremely rich idealists.
It will be paid by Vijay Mallya, the millionaire owner of Kingfisher Beer – mmmmm, I used to drink that in Indian restaurants – and banked by the owner of these strangely moving objects, Richard Otis, a Hollywood documentary film-maker.
Richard Otis is a self-professed Gandhi follower who had tried to donate the items to the Indian government if it would agree to increase its spending on the poor by $50million. The government said no, well no surprize there I guess, and so the sandals and everything went to auction.
Mr. Otis has now regretted the hasty rush to sale and tried to stop it but, contracts being contracts, he was told that he could not do that. Instead he has gone on a 23 day fast in honour of Gandhi and, maybe to appease his conscience and retrieve his public image.
I wonder what will happen to all that money – it would be wonderful if Richard Otis donates it to an Indian charity. Let’s hope so.
Vijay Mallya, according to his “spokesman” was bidding “for his country” – bidding so enthusiastically that the price went up from the estimated $30,000 to the final gigantic figure.
The spokesman added that “I am sure all Indians will be pleased that these Gandhi items will be coming home.”
I wonder if they will be coming home to Mr. Mallya’s house or to a more public home in an Indian museum.
It would be so heartening if, at least once, we could read about rich men doing something noble with their wealth.
We have had (Sir) Fred Goodwin, the failed chief of the Royal Bank of Scotland sitting on his immoral hoard of pension money, those other failed bankers who are about to receive their totally undeserved bonuses and then those heartless embezzling entrepreneurs who will soon be, let’s hope, paying for their crimes in front of an American court.
Maybe, Mahatma Gandhi’s sandals will become a symbol, not only of a great and brave man, but also of a change in the behaviour of the very rich who can all so well afford to spread some of their money around a bit.
Now, if some of those bankers want to share some of that money, I have a pair of old sandals and some glasses very similar to those Gandhi ones – my model was John Lennon, of course, who also ended his life at the hands of a fanatic – I kept the glasses as a memento of a golden time.
I would be wearing them today if I hadn’t broken them one day in an inebriated spinning experiment on top of a tower in a park in Bristol.
The sandals? Well, maybe I am no Mahatma Gandhi but there is still a bit more wear in them.
Anyone want to start the bidding?
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COLIN BELL’S PUBLICATIONS:
Stephen Dearsley’s Summer Of Love
Ward Wood Publishing
October 30, 2013
Genius Floored: Uncurtained Window
Soaring Penguin Press
June 15, 2013
Genius Floored: Whispers in Smoke
Soaring Penguin Press
June 6, 2014
Poetry and short story anthology
A Kind Of A Hurricane Press
The Blotter Magazine Inc.
Three pages of poetry in the American South’s unique, free, international literature and arts magazine.
The Fib Review
My Fibonacci poetry has appeared in this journal from 2009 until the present
Shot Glass Journal
Muse Pie Press
My poetry has appeared in various issues of this short form poetry journal
Every Day Poets Magazine
Every Day Poets
I have various poems of the day published in this 365 days a year poetry magazine.
In The Night Count The Stars
March 1, 2014
An “uncommon anthology” of images, fragments, stories and poetry.